Europe’s leaders are set to hold a virtual meeting on Wednesday, to discuss the next steps for Belarus, where police clashes with protesters are shaking the capital, Minsk, after a disputed election showed long-time ruler Aleksander Lukashenko winning a sixth term as Belarus’ President.

The news for the online summit was announced by EU Council President Charles Michel, who tweeted on Monday that “the people of Belarus have the right to decide on their future and freely elect their leader.”

Similarly, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell tweeted that during the special EU Council meeting, he will update EU’s heads of state and government “on work to sanction those responsible for violence, repression and election results falsification.”

“The Belarusian population wants change and wants it now. he EU stands by them,” Borrell added.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to push for dialogue in Belarus, after Russia offered Lukashenko military assistance if necessary to maintain power.

On Friday, the bloc’s Foreign Ministers had met online to discuss the situation in Belarus, the recent developments in Beirut and the growing Greek-Turkish tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. During the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), the Ministers agreed to draft a list of targets for sanctions against those responsible for violence and falsification of the votes in Belarus’ elections.

Sunday’s massive protests in Minsk
Over 200,000 took to the streets on Sunday in the Freedom March to protest against the outcome of August 9 elections, that gave Lukashenko a landslide victory. Sunday’s rally was the biggest demonstration so far against what protesters said was a rigged election that gave Lukashenko over 80% of the vote, whereas his rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya got just 9.9%.

Some 7,000 protesters have been detained by authorities in the postelection crackdown, with hundreds injured and at least two killed, local media reported. The interior ministry said there were no arrests at the rallies.

Lukashenko has rejected calls for repeating the vote, saying that “If we follow their lead (and rerun the election), we will perish as a state.”

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